Nowhere in the United States Constitution does it say that you have to vote for a President and a Vice President from the same political party. Really. The two offices are completely separate during the election process.

Not that a party split between these two offices has ever happened in U.S. history, but I think it'd be a kick if it did someday. Think it's difficult to get anything done in Washington, D.C. when you have a Democratic President and a Republican Congress? How about if you had a Republican President and a Democratic Veep?

The VP has another important power: he gets to break ties in the Senate (which are not that uncommon, the 100 seats often being split roughly evenly between the two major US parties). Al Gore has used this power on a couple of occasions to help the passage of bills that otherwise might have gone down to defeat. The prime example of this is the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA 93), which added the new 36% and 39.6% tax brackets but did not include the child tax credit promised in the 1992 Presidential campaign. The bill passed the House and was stuck 50-50 in the Senate, at which point Gore voted for it, and Bill Clinton signed it into law.

This is a VERY important power. Whatever your opinion of OBRA 93 (and opinions vary--widely), there's no doubt that it would not have passed in its then-current form without a little Vice-Presidential nudge.

Actually, the Vice President lives in the Old Naval Observatory Building in Washington, D.C., at 34th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, a lovely Queen Anne-style Victorian home. No, really.

It was built for the Superintendant of the US Naval Observatory in 1893. In 1929 it became the home of the U.S. Navy's Chief of Naval Operations. Then in 1974 it was designated the official home of the Vice President of the United States, and every VP since that time has lived there. I've driven past it, and it's a pretty unassuming place (albeit large, with a sizeable fenced-in lawn/compound) given that the Vice President lives there -- just a big driveway with a "Naval Observatory" sign.

There are pictures of it, along with some explanatory text (from which I purloined all of the actual facts above) at http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/EOP/VP_Wife/home.html, which is an "At Home With the Gores" page. Be warned that the rest of it is a bit much:

See their decorating tastes!

Marvel at the Christmas ornaments!

Sigh.

The Vice Presidents of The United States of America:

  1. John Adams (George Washington)
  2. Thomas Jefferson (John Adams)
  3. Aaron Burr (Thomas Jefferson)
  4. George Clinton (Thomas Jefferson and James Madison)
  5. Elbridge Gerry (James Madison)
  6. Daniel D. Tompkins (James Monroe)
  7. John C. Calhoun (John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson)
  8. Martin Van Buren (Andrew Jackson)
  9. Richard Mentor Johnson (Martin Van Buren)
  10. John Tyler (William Henry Harrison)
  11. George Mifflin Dallas (James K. Polk)
  12. Millard Fillmore (Zachary Taylor)
  13. William R. D. King (Franklin Pierce)
  14. John C. Breckinridge (James Buchanan
  15. Hannibal Hamlin (Abraham Lincoln)
  16. Andrew Johnson (Abraham Lincoln)
  17. Schuyler Colfax (Ulysses S. Grant)
  18. Henry Wilson (Ulysses S. Grant)
  19. William A. Wheeler (Rutherford B. Hayes)
  20. Chester Alan Arthur (James Abram Garfield)
  21. Thomas A. Hendricks (Grover Cleveland)
  22. Levi Parsons Morton (Benjamin Harrison)
  23. Adlai E. Stevenson (Grover Cleveland)
  24. Garret A. Hobart (William McKinley)
  25. Theodore Roosevelt) (William McKinley)
  26. Charles W. Fairbanks Theodore Roosevelt)
  27. James S. Sherman (William Howard Taft)
  28. Thomas R. Marshall (Woodrow Wilson)
  29. Calvin Coolidge (Warren Gamaliel Harding)
  30. Charles G. Dawes (Calvin Coolidge)
  31. Charles Curtis (Herbert Clark Hoover)
  32. John Nance Garner (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
  33. Henry A. Wallace (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
  34. Harry S. Truman (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
  35. Alben W. Barkley (Harry S. Truman)
  36. Richard Milhouse Nixon (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
  37. Lyndon B. Johnson (John F. Kennedy)
  38. Hubert H. Humphrey (Lyndon B. Johnson)
  39. Spiro T. Agnew (Richard Milhouse Nixon)
  40. Gerald R. Ford (Richard Milhouse Nixon)
  41. Nelson Rockefeller (Gerald R. Ford)
  42. Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter)
  43. George Bush (Ronald Reagan)
  44. Dan Quayle (George Bush)
  45. Al Gore (Bill Clinton)
  46. Richard B. Cheney (George W. Bush)
Auxiliary president. The vice-president is the stand in for the president for a particular purpose. It looks like between 1992 and 2000, Albert Gore was vice-president of the United States, which officially puts his duties somewhere around thumb twiddling, but in case somebody should have assassinated president William Clinton, Mr. Gore would have defaulted to the presidency, effectively making him the most powerful man in the world.

The vice-president is a contingency plan, but in some cases (such as 2000-2004) may not prove to be very reliable. It seems as though Dick Cheney, who is probably the next United States vice-president, has a heart problem. If it kills him before his term is up, then that's a contingency plan that hasn't seen all possible contingencies.

Also, SatireWire once referred to the PresiRAT, which apparently refers to a U.S. President who is a DemocRAT. This begs the question: Is there a vice-presiRAT for those occasions when something dreadful should happen to the current presiRAT?

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